Tuesday 26 July 2011

Mini Rigid Heddle

Something I wish to share with you all is a small and simple rigid heddle that I recently made. It is extremely portable and easy to use, especially when you wish to weave a band of just one or two metres. This sturdy little heddle has been carved from a slice of boxwood and given a couple of coats of hemp seed oil. I have to thank sculptor and good friend Ben for sending me several slices of this wood, which is really easy to work with, but has a fine grain and nice strength. Ben works with many mediums other than wood to produce his pieces of fine sculpture. To view his work please check out his website!

This style of rigid heddle dates back to at least the viking period when it was used for weaving narrow bands for straps and decorations on clothing. It saves time by allowing the weft threads to pass quickly through without manually weaving in and out of each warp thread. I figured such a simple idea with a deep history couldn't be too difficult to use and I was pleasantly surprised by my first result with this heddle.

In rigid heddle looms, the warp threads pass alternately through the heddle's slots and holes. When raising the heddle, half of the threads will raise (those passing through the holes), and lowering the heddle will lower the same threads. The threads passing through the heddle's slots will always remain in the same place.

You have to have your warp threads secured firmly before starting to weave. Tension is of great importance and the same tension must be applied to each of the warp threads running through the heddle. The easiest thing to do is to tie both ends of the warp threads to stakes, you could just as easily use any firm fixing to tie to. My heddle can take a maximum of 17 warp threads. For the trial (pictured above!), the warp consists of 15 threads of Wild Himalayan Nettle with a thread of Belgian Flax at either side. The weft is Hemp.

The image below shows the simple weave. You can easily see that the weft alternates over and under the warp threads. The heddle makes the passing of the weft much quicker and easier.